Topsy the Elephant, of the Forepaugh Circus was deemed a threat by her owners and sentenced to death by electrocution in Coney Island, New York January 4, 1903. It was first suggested to hang ol’ Topsy but Thomas Edison saw this event as an opportunity in his campaign to discourage people from using George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla’s AC (alternating current) as an electrical power over his own method, DC (direct current). He was showing that AC electrical source was dangerous and his own invention was a safer choice. AC had been used since 1890 in the execution of humans, so its not really surprising. Topsy was down in second. Edison filmed the event and there were 1,500 people witnessed the murder of Topsy the elephant.
I’m not doing this to say it’s right or wrong. But I was surprised (guess I really shouldn’t have been) that one of the most prolific inventors and entrepreneur in American history did this sort of thing to Topsy. She had killed three people, who’s to say under what circumstances, and the suggestion of electrocution over hanging was a better, less cruel decision. Nevertheless, it happened and the scatter-brained businessman caught the execution on film. This is the first killing of an animal on film.
I suppose this is important to the progression of film in the sense of research and documentation. It was surprising knowledge to me and I thought I should share it.
Not to worry! You reap what you sew. Coney Island’s Luna Park suffered three horrible fires from 1944 to ’46 The demise of Coney Island’s Luna Park is considered “Topsy’s Revenge”. The park was re-opened in May of 2010. Beware of Topsy’s ghost!